Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sears Oakbrook Center, 1962

Here’s a unique Sears store from one of my all-time favorite malls, Oakbrook Center, which is located in Chicago’s Western Suburbs. This store, which opened along with the rest of the mall in March 1962, was designed by famed architect Richard Marsh Bennett, who also designed many of the mall’s other structures (including the exterior of the Oakbrook Jewel Food Store, featured in one of this site’s earliest posts). Bennett originally gained fame by designing the very influential Old Orchard Shopping Center, which opened in Skokie, Illinois four years earlier.

Definitely one of the Chicago area’s most successful malls, Oakbrook Center has been expanded many times yet has always managed to maintain the clean, timeless look and feel of the original 1962 concept. I would contrast it with Golf Mill, (another favorite, with a Sears of course) located in near NW suburban Niles, which lost its very charming outdoor concourse (including a wooden miniature “mill”) when it was enclosed in the 1980’s. Oakbrook has remained for the most part an “outdoor” mall, and in a delicious irony seems even more contemporary given the trend of recent years away from enclosed malls.

The Sears store with its distinctive aggregate façade still exists, with some notable changes – the dual script logos were replaced with a single 60’s style serif logo (in the center) many years back. This logo was replaced with the 1990’s block letter logo, which it still currently sports. A central entrance has replaced the dual entrances and many of the windows are now covered. The natural tan color of the aggregate has been painted over (gray) and a blue accent bar has been added across the full width. Sadly, the exquisite metalwork and lighting are gone, replaced with large, round cement columns, which I presume may have been done for structural reasons.


  1. Thats sure a spiffy looking Sears store there! I would love to see a current photo, I'm glad it's still there, curious about how it looks now.

    Thanks for your detailed A-B-C store descriptions, super history lesson, thanks so much.

  2. Hey, Peter, I love this site too!

    I love that store and I am with Vintage Disney, does it still look like that?

  3. Tim - I'll have to see if I can dig up a recent photo. The main facade (the one pictured) faces inward to the concourse area and doesn't show up well at all on Windows live local.

    Peterb and Didi - Thanks!

  4. When Sears celebrated its 100th Anniversary in 1986, they featured a picture of this store, which has to be one of the more unique stores Sears has ever built.

    A similar theme was used on at least a couple of other Sears I know of in Ohio at Eastland and Northland in Columbus, though the Northland store had a more substantial support structure on their entrance, and the Eastland store had the columns like you said Oakbrook has now.

    I'd imagine that delicate steel framework holding such a massive overhang would cause some structural problems.

  5. Steven - I've got a pic of the Northland store that I'll have to post. It looks similar to Oakbrook, with differences as you describe.

  6. I was there today and I think that this building is gone. I found the Sears but it looked nothing like this gorgeous structure. Instead it was boxlike modern blech. Sorry. I was very disappointed. I desperately wanted to see this live and in person.

    The rest of the mall, especially the court part where the smaller mall stores are located still have that 60s feel. Although some of the rust on the sides could use a splash of paint.

  7. Didi - Most of this store is boxlike, except the corner portion facing the courtyard. Last time I was there (about 2 months ago)it was still there, although with the changes I described in the post. The funky aggregate stone work was still there.

  8. This store is still intact and the exterior is still similar to the original, although the lights, large pillars and logo have been changed. The inside has been redone, and a Lands End store takes up most of the first floor. It's kind of a misfit nowadays, because Oak Brook Center has become a lifestyle mall with Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Tiffany, etc. And yes, the mall, although it was redone last year, still has a 1960s feeling.

  9. I was a Oak Brook Today and the Sears there is gone. Wonder why they redid the outside and not left it alone?